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The Quilon

Louise Elgin sampled a showcase of fine South Indian cooking

Last night I sampled ambrosial heaven when I dined at The Quilon. This has to be one of the best meals I have ever eaten whilst acting as a reviewer for Dine-Online.

A little off the beaten track although situated in the centre of town, The Quilon takes its name from what used to be the largest railway junction in times of British India: it's tucked away just off Victoria Street only a few minutes walk from Victoria Station. Inside, the atmosphere is very relaxed, with low lighting and well-spaced tables, all geared towards an intimate evening's dining. The walls sport attractive murals of the River Ganges, whilst the Indian staff are highly professional, striking the perfect balance of being attentive without being obtrusive.

The menu consists of 13 starters, ranging in price from £5.50 for the Quilon Salad - the chef's creation of exotic vegetables in a chilli, coriander and curry leaves dressing - to char grilled scallops, £8.25, marinated in chilli, lime juice, turmeric powder, salt, and then char-grilled. We were at a loss as to what to eat, as everything sounded tempting: so we let the manager select some dishes for us. To begin with, I was presented with an attractively arranged plate containing several small samples of starters from the menu. The mini Marsala Dosa was crisp, light and totally more-ish comfort food; the thin rice and lentil pancake melted instantly in the mouth, giving way to the light potato filling - so good, yet rarely seen on a menu anywhere outside the Far East. There were a couple of totally tender scallops with a good kick of spice and just a hint of barbecue about them. Some battered chilli-fried cauliflower had been tossed in yoghurt, green chillies and curry leaves. Last but not least was some Bunt Chicken, delicately spiced with a hint of garlic and tandoori undertones. By now my taste buds were in raptures with all the subtle spices and flavourings that I had been sampling. In between courses, we were each served a glass of Rasam. This turned out to be a comforting glass of spiced tomato and other accompaniments, served warm with a dash of chilli. The more we drank, the hotter the effect seemed, a very interesting palate cleanser.

For its main courses, The Quilon being a Southern Indian restaurant, specialises in fish and seafood. There was a veritable feast, priced around about the £18 mark. We were served a selection of what was on offer, beginning with one of the chef's signature dishes, Black Cod Vattichathu, £20.50. It came served baked in a thick black coating of tamarind and jaggery, a derivative of molasses; it was beautifully cooked, the cod thoroughly permeated with the flavours of the marinade. We also tried a lamb biryani, £18.00, that was cooked with traditional malabar spices in a sealed pot, and also the chicken Masala, £15.00. Both were moist, tender and delicately spiced. To accompany our dishes we were served some Pineapple Pachadi, £3.00, made from yoghurt, pineapple and spices which I'll warn you is rather on the sweet side. Other side orders, all of which are vegetable dishes priced at £8.50, included mixed vegetable green curry with a hint of coconut, £8.50, and some crisp asparagus and French beans.

The wine list is split under headings such as classic, modern, adventurous and even aristocratic! Most of the selection was reasonably fairly priced around the £20.00 mark, although we splashed out and had an excellent Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand at £39.00. It had gooseberry overtones with added lychee, was crisp, light and highly drinkable. There's also a well stocked bar serving cocktails, £6.50, beers, including Kingfisher, £4.00, and various spirits.

South Indian cuisine is renowned for its lightness, so for once the thought of pudding was an absolute must instead of a challenge to the digestion. We finished with a selection of desserts including ice cream, normally £5.00 each. The flavours included jackfruit, a kind of cactus, sorbet-like in its consistency, and black pepper, whose surprisingly subtle kick of flavour is not to be missed. We also tried the jackfruit pudding, £5.00, which was a sort of Indian version of our rice pudding, and was moist and more-ish. Finally, we tried The Quilon special, Bibinca and Dodhol, £5.25; a very good Portuguese desert made with palm molasses, and served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Although at present The Quilon does not serve a menu enabling one to eat a variety of dishes like we did, I hope this may change, as it really is the best way to sample Executive Chef Aylur V. Sriram's fabulous cooking. He has been ranked amongst one of the top 5 chefs in the country.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach…with cooking like this I think I think it could well be the way to a certain woman's as well!

Louise Elgin, August 2004
The Quilon
41 Buckingham Gate, London SW1
Tel 020 7828 5802

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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